Deputy Willie Penrose has said that, notwithstanding the recommendations of the McCarthy Report, support for the Rural Transport Scheme is absolutely vital for rural Ireland.
Indeed, rather than considering ending the Rural Transport Scheme which is vital for rural communities, the local TD says there is a profound argument to be made in support of the enhancement and extension of the services provided under the scheme.
“These services are vital to people residing in rural areas. They provide services for the elderly and for many people who reside on their own or in isolated areas, and fulfil an important social need of enabling these people to attend hospital appointments, or conduct private business, or even attend certain events,” said Deputy Penrose.
“We all are aware that rural society is being affected by the changing nature of local services, with the loss of post offices and the closure of shops and pubs being evident. Very often these were the focal points for social interchange and discussion and helped combat loneliness and isolation.
“In this context, the value of these schemes to rural communities cannot be underestimated. Some groups across Longford and Westmeath have contacted me seeking to ensure that their particular scheme remains operating, and I am calling upon the Government to ensure that all such transport schemes are supported.”
Deputy Penrose added that the remit of the scheme could be extended to enable people attend one-off events.
“Currently rural transport scheme services have to have some form of a weekly schedule and be from point to point. I feel that there should be some flexibility on this and scheme administrators should be allowed to put in place day trips for the elderly and community groups where necessary,” he said.
“Rural Transport Schemes empower local people, provide assistance to local communities, and help prevent isolation and loneliness, particularly for the elderly. It is abundantly clear that communities know their own areas best and know what the requirements are.
“So I am calling upon the Government to ensure that this important scheme is not subject to any cuts initiated by McCarthy or otherwise.”